A popular theory is democracy in Detroit is dead, and we have Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan Republicans and emergency manager Kevyn Orr to thank. What this diagnosis assumes is that democracy existed before Orr’s arrival and cannot be revitalized without greater local freedom. Yet, it seems to me that many Detroiters gave up on the idea of a functioning local representative democracy long ago, and in so doing, may have highlighted civic engagement as a method of change.
Emergency manager Kevyn Orr is supplementing a City Council that was elected by under 10% of Detroit voters and a mayor elected with only 20% of voter turnout. In addition, as of 2010, the school board official receiving the greatest number of votes represented only 7% of the possible voters in Detroit.
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